The way Chris Perez's long, blond hair shields most of his face as he sits over his keyboard echoes a shyness shared by other performers who once hid behind their locks, like Kurt Cobain and Elliott Smith. Not until after he finishes playing and begins to boldly explain his agenda do you realize: He's not tormented; he's just got long hair.
"I want to make the first great record of the new millennium," the 21-year-old singer, guitarist, and pianist says. "I want to give kids something to believe in again."
Perez and his band Price have yet to record that album, but they're well on their way, having recently signed a contract with Geffen Records.
Shortly after this article was written, Fernando Perdomo left the band for personal reasons. Price will be heading to Los Angeles to record its first full-length album within the next two weeks. To hear the band's music in the meantime, go to www.myspace.com/ pricetheband.
"We're looking at producers," says Matty Beckerman, the band's 29-year-old manager.
"Everything right now is about to fucking blow open," adds Perez.
Along with Perez and his two brothers, nineteen-year-old guitarist Mikey and sixteen-year-old bassist Corey, Price includes twenty-year-old drummer Alex Ibanez and guitarists Fernando Perdomo and Adonis Cross, both age 25. Named for the brothers' great-grandmother, Price pays tribute to people of the past, especially to the musicians of the Sixties and Seventies, an era Chris Perez considers "the best era of music." Though the band's sound comes from a variety of influences notably the Beatles, with Jimi Hendrix guitars, Randy Newman keys, and Beach Boys background vocals the overall tone of every song is resoundingly placed in a time period decades ago.
It's that very music which drove Chris Perez to pursue music in the first place, teaching himself guitar so he could learn to play Nick Drake songs. Ibanez and Cross pursued music with similar sentiments but different bands. Ibanez first grew interested in performing when his father used to read him passages from Yellow Submarine, while Cross remembers his family singing "Solid" by Ashford and Simpson, and witnessing his father competing in rap battles on the streets of northern California with a guy who would become LL Cool J. And aside from Cross, who moved to Miami only four year ago, all the members of Price were at one time a part of the Beach High Rock Ensemble at Miami Beach High School, including Perdomo, who bridged Cross to the Perez brothers after meeting him in front of a bar where Cross was doing solo acoustic performances after he'd arrived in Miami.
"What are the odds of a freaking Cuban dude and a brother meeting in front of a bar in Miami and having a conversation about Aimee Mann?" Cross asks, laughing.
"And selling drugs to each other. I mean for God's sake," adds Perdomo.
Before Price began last September, each current member was engaged in other bands or musical projects that were going nowhere. Chris Perez had played in a few local bands that had fallen apart, most of which included his brother Mikey, but not Corey, who was the last to join Price after the original bassist quit. With this new incarnation, Chris began to do things differently.
"I was making a conscious effort not to do the same things I've done in other bands," Chris Perez explains. "You see all the mistakes and everything that goes wrong; you can get stuck playing local gigs for the rest of your life."
The sudden decision to make a more purposeful band came as a result of a near panic attack Chris experienced last August when he turned 21.
"I felt desperate," Chris explains. "I felt like I was getting old and like I had to fucking do something with my life; all these fucking songs are just going to go nowhere and I'm just going to end up playing them to my kids later in life, and I'm like, No, that's not going to fucking happen. By the time I'm 22, I've got to be somewhere. "
When Mikey Perez agreed to join the band, he was a bit less enthusiastic about it.
"My brother asked me as a favor. I said, öFine, I'll play some sick guitar for you.' Before then I just didn't really care," Mikey explains. "Then I realized, yeah, I really like doing this."
How Chris made Price different from his previous endeavors included creating a massive list of playable songs and recording about ten of them immediately.
"The first thing we did was we started to build our repertoire. Now we've got like 40 to 50 songs that we rotate in sets and stuff," Chris says. "We went in November and recorded immediately; we did nine songs in two days. We cut the band live. We were focusing in on really getting somewhere with this."
The recordings came in handy when Beckerman and Chris went to the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, this past March and handed them out to the many record-label representatives who were present.
"When I put [the recording] in people's hands, I didn't say anything about anything to anyone; I just handed it to people and said, 'Listen to this,'" Beckerman explains. "I got calls back almost immediately from everyone. We had every major label calling us and flying us all over the place right after that."
Beckerman explains that a benefit Price enjoyed was that the record representatives already trusted his opinion. He'd gotten bands like Endo and Breaking Benjamins signed to major labels in the past and therefore already had a solid relationship with the music industry. However, not until he met Chris Perez two years ago did he find a musician he passionately wanted to get signed.
"I saw Chris perform on his own with just his acoustic guitar, and he started playing songs that were so incredible. I saw something in it that blew me away immediately," Beckerman says. "I really hadn't found a band that blew me away enough with talent and with their young attitude."
After sifting through offers from labels like Columbia and Atlantic, Price decided on Geffen. "Ron [Fair, Geffen Records chairman] sat down and was able to pick out parts of songs that they played and understood them immediately," Beckerman explains.
"Everybody involved [at Geffen] has worked on records that are me and Adonis's top ten," adds Perdomo.
The Price bandmates closed on their deal last week and soon will be heading to Los Angeles to record.
"We're not going in for four months to cut a record," Beckerman explains. "We're going in for a short time period and going straight into it, and then hitting the road for the rest of our lives."
As Beckerman describes the recording and touring process, it begins to sink in with the rest of the band that something serious is happening to them.
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"It just hit me that we're about to blow up," says Cross.
"The most important week of our lives is this week, and maybe possibly next week, " says Perdomo. "That year of effort has really paid off."
And while the record deal doesn't necessarily mean musical mainstream success, Chris is optimistic about the future, drawing on his past successes as support.
"The last band we had played similar music and we got the entire Beach High crazy about them. They were buying that shit like cigarettes. If we can get one high school like that, and it wasn't hard to do, if we can infiltrate a place like that into what we're doing, then I know that we're going to make a huge fucking impact."